The story so far:
I stood in my doorway and watched as he walked slowly into the distance. Just before he vanished from my sight, I thought I saw him turn and raise his hand. Another wave of nausea gripped me briefly. It was if that distant gesture was no mere farewell, but rather a Parthian shot of evil.
I closed the door slowly and glanced around the room. It seemed brighter somehow, as if by his very departure things were suddenly cleaner and fresher. My breathing, which had been coming in ragged chunks, settled into its normal pattern.
My eyes closed as I sat in my recliner. It all seemed so surreal! Surely it never happened. That last reference to Halloween made me consider that I'd imagined the entire affair. You see, Halloween is foremost on my mind. They will have been gone exactly a year on that bitter holiday; lost to me forever. My grief eats at me like a cancer. A rush of emotion forced tears from my eyes and I marveled I had any left to give.
I wiped my face and blinked away the pain. The details of the preacher's visit were already fading. The power of my imagination to create such a daunting presence amazed me and I wondered briefly if I were going mad. Then my eye rested on a small thing, the simplest of things. A coffee cup. The cup was still warm when I picked it up; it looked nearly full, yet I recalled him drinking it.
I carried the cup into the kitchen and poured it out in the sink. A small clattering sound drew my attention. I looked down and in the murky remains there was a glint of silver. My blood ran cold. In the sink lay my daughter's crucifix, still attached to the thin silver chain I'd taken from her neck at the funeral. For the past year it had hung on a nail above her bed. I snatched it from the sink and held it under the water to rinse it clean; the thought of the preacher handling it irked me. As I passed it under the stream from the faucet I knew something about it was wrong; the mounting had been changed. It now hung upside down.
I ripped the chain from the pendant and fled the kitchen. My eyes were welling up again as I made my way down the dark hallway to Angela's small bedroom. 'The bastard!', I thought as I paused at her door. After a moment's hesitation I opened it and stepped into the past. I had neither the heart nor inclination to change anything in her room since that awful night. Dirty clothes lay where she'd discarded them, and a glass of water (now dry) was on the nightstand beside the small white iron bed; it was being faithfully guarded by a plastic pony.
Dread filled me as I saw the wall above the bed was empty, save for a lone empty nail. As I walked closer, I noticed some scratches in the plaster where the crucifix normally hung. Someone had used a knife to slice words into the soft paint. It said simply: